Once upon a time Atlantic puffins nested in the thousands on Maine’s islands. They were hunted to extinction. It has taken 50 years of dedicated effort on the part of numerous volunteers, led by Maine Audubon, to restore small, self-supporting colonies. To celebrate this success, last summer my wife assisted my daughter in creating a wonderful puffin exhibit in the Waterfall Arts Center in Belfast.

This past week we sailed to Skomer Island off the coast of Wales (UK), with rock-strewn approaches, ferocious tidal streams, and high cliffs inhabited by tens of thousands of nesting puffins and other seabirds. It was an awe-inspiring reminder of what was so carelessly given up in Maine and which has been so hard to recover.

Our trip to Skomer coincided with the unanimous guilty verdict in Donald Trump’s recent trial, the verdict coming from a jury the defense helped to select. Trump responded with increasingly unhinged rants against the U.S. justice and political systems, together with promises to extract retribution. If Trump is reelected, we will be sailing into dangerous uncharted waters.

Even for lifelong loyal Republicans, it must be increasingly hard to ignore the evidence that Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party pose an existential threat to U.S. democracy. Regardless of your perspective on the Biden administration, as a nation we have a choice this November: to risk the destruction of many of the pillars of our civic society, or to send a message that the Republican Party needs to return to its roots before it will once again be entrusted with our government.

The story of the puffins in Maine tells us that once something is let go it is often not easy to get it back. Our democracy is similarly fragile. We have an opportunity to head off the threat it faces. Let’s not carelessly allow this to slip through our fingers.

Nigel Calder


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